Parents can often find themselves with the daunting task of selecting a child care center or preschool for their precious gems. With so many options out there it can be overwhelming for any parent. Here is a quick guide of things to look for to ensure that the transition to school is a smooth one for you and your child.
1. Teacher/Child Interactions
Having consistent, positive interaction with an adult caregiver is very important in a child’s life for their own development. These relationships are not just at home with a loving family but should also be present in the classroom. Do you see the caregiver on the floor interacting with the children in her care or do you find them disengaged and on their phones or watching from afar? The sign of a present and engaged teacher will be evident, even during a tour of a new facility. Pay careful attention to this.
2. Good Communication Systems in Place
Being away from your child for hours a day can be challenging enough on any parent but not having good communication practices between the school and the teachers can make it almost unbearable. What systems are in place to ensure that there is timely communication about things such as diapering, food intake, and what your child enjoyed about their day most? Do you get pictures and specific feedback and news about your child? Having excellent communication systems in place can really help you feel like you’re right there with your child, a true home-away-from-home. Be sure to ask questions about communication policies and what to expect.
3. Educational Philosophies
It is very important that your thoughts on educating young children align with the school you are considering. What are the educational levels of the owners and leadership teams? You may think this is insignificant, but the educational practices in place are most often directly impacted by the understanding, training, and knowledge of the school leadership. Has the school leadership researched best practices in early childhood development or are they mere investors in a business? The heart and passion for even the youngest children will be evident when educating kids is what makes a school’s heartbeat. Ask questions and see what truly drives the school’s educational philosophy.
4. Take a Peek
Does the school has an open-door policy? Can you see your children in action during the day or when you pick up and drop off your child? Be leary of schools that do not ever allow you to peek in on your child and who do not welcome your participation in-class activities and special events.
5. Ask Questions
Find out whether you share philosophies on topics such as discipline (Do the caregivers use time-outs, scoldings, or is there another system in place?); Screen time (Do students have access to TV, computers, tablets, etc? How often and can you opt-out?); feeding (What snacks or drinks are provided? What if there is an allergy or special request/dietary restriction); sleeping (When are naps offered?); and so forth. Inquire about the sick-child policy (What symptoms prevent a child from attending and how long must they stay out). The more questions you ask early on, the less likely you are to be unpleasantly surprised later. Read the handbook to ensure you know exactly what to be prepared for and make sure you can agree to the terms.
6. Trust your Gut
Parents can usually identify when something is just not right. Just because it is a convenient location or a good price point for your budget doesn’t mean you should overlook things that just do not feel right. You and your child should walk away each and every day happy and at peace with the decision, so much so that you would have no problem referring anyone to the school because you truly believe it is the best school around.
**Here at Stepping Stones, we have dedicated our life’s work to ensure that children are given the best opportunities to grow and develop at their pace. We offer a variety of full time and part-time options for infants all the way through Pre-Kindergarten, as well as a Private Kindergarten and First Grade and Afterschool program for school-aged kids. We believe in the power of teacher/child interaction and encourage parents to come to peek in and get involved in the classroom. We recently launched BrightWheel technology that allows you to see how your child is doing (diapering, feedings, outside times, naps, and cute photos of their day) in real-time through an app. Please call us to schedule a tour and learn all about our programs.